With confidence already a concern for the Winnipeg Jets, a late third period comeback by the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 3-2 win will not help. And with the next game in Ottawa Saturday afternoon (TSN 1290), there is not a lot of time for the coaches to come up with solutions.
A frustrated Claude Noel in his post-game news conference talked about changes.
For the Leafs a successful night for Coach Randy Carlyle in his return to Winnipeg, a city where he both played and coached.
The Jets were the better team in the first period but James Reimer (Morweena, Manitoba) was solid to keep it scoreless. Both teams struggled on the power play, to the point where each team gave up a short-handed goal.
Zach Redmond coming off his two point game against Florida Tuesday opened the scoring with the Jets first shorthanded goal of the season. It was Redmond's first NHL goal and for the first time in eight games the Jets scored first.
"It's always a great thing to get out of the way and something you always dream of. I never thought it would come on the penalty kill," said Redmond after his fourth game in the NHL.
Brian Little assisted on the goal, a reversal from Tuesday when Redmond set up Little for his overtime winner against Florida. Toby Enstrom also drew an assist to extend his point streak to a career high eight.
The lead was short lived however. Less than three minutes later Tyler Bozak scored a short-handed goal to tie the game. It was the first NHL game since March of 2011 that saw consecutive short-handed goals.
Grant Clitsome with his second of the year, another blast from the point, put the Jets back in front at the 3:46 mark of the third. All was good from a Jets standpoint until a Cody Franson shot went off Matt Frattin and eluded goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to tie the game.
Ten seconds later a holding penalty to Alexei Ponikarovsky, and 44 seconds later Phil Kessel with his first of the year put the Leafs in front to stay.
Kessel went 332 shifts since his last goal and came into the game leading the league in shots on goal but still looking for his first. Last year Kessel had 10 goals and 18 points in the Leafs first ten games.
"No comment on that," was Coach Noel's response when asked about the penalty. It was the second time in a week that a Ponikarovsky penalty proved costly. In Florida the Jets were up by a goal in the third when a tripping penalty to Ponikarovsky opened the flood gates.
The Jets lead the league in points from defenceman and added to that Thursday with three more. 42% of the Jets scoring points this season have come from the back end, which is a credit to the blue liners, but at the same time a sign the forwards are not getting it done offensively.
"We need to make changes with our forward lines. Need to make some moves with our top six," added Coach Noel. "I am deeply disappointed at not being able to close it out. We let it get away. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. We were a little tentative with eight minutes to go in the game. Sitting back on our heels."
So how to develop the close it out mentality?
"With success," continued the Coach. "Doing simple things – that's how you win hockey games. We are finding ways to lose games and it's our own doing."
Jets power play was 0-4. First home game this year that they did not get a power play goal. The power play struggled to just get a shot on goal.
Statistically, the Jets had a good third period in the faceoff department after the Leafs had a success rate of 71% after the second. It ended up 59% in favour of the Leafs.
Ron Hainsey lead the Jets in ice time at 24:52, followed by Redmond at 24:04, a season high. Little had two assists and came out of the game a plus 2. Another quiet night for the Olli Jokinen line with Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler, so expectation is that the three will not be together in Ottawa Saturday.